I kid, of course, but one night after Arrieta pitched an absolute gem in Anaheim, Lester followed it up with an excellent outing of his own.
Through seven innings, Lester allowed just one run on four hits and no walks, while striking out four Angels. But, more important than the results themselves – which we have mostly come to expect from the Cubs’ big lefty – was how Lester looked, how he felt, and how happy he was with his performance.
Well, he looked good, felt strong, and, like everyone else, including manager Joe Maddon, he was quite pleased with his start. “Physically, mentally, I’m light years ahead of where I was last year at this point,” Lester said via Carrie Muskat at Cubs.com.
And I’m not sure if Cubs fans fully appreciate how good Lester is at his best. Don’t get me wrong, he was absolutely excellent for the Cubs in 2015 (3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, 25% K-rate, 5.7% BB-rate, 5.0 WAR) – in fact, that was one of the best Cubs starting pitching seasons in recent memory – but going back just one more year unleashes an entirely different beast.
During his last season for Boston and the A’s (2014), Lester finished with a 2.46/2.80/3.10 slash line, 5.5 WAR, and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting. Now, no one can be sure if he’ll ever replicate those numbers, but he is just 32 years old and has been projected to age quite gracefully. If he “didn’t feel like himself” in 2015, but is firing on all cylinders now, the Cubs may very well have two legitimate aces on the roster.